For soccer-loving foreigners, one of the most peculiar aspects of American football is the huddle. To them, it is an anomaly, a form of institutionalized inaction that turns the game into a succession of coffee breaks.
About the only exception to this pattern of long interruptions occurs at the end of either half, when teams often go to a ''two-minute offense'' with few huddles in an attempt to score quickly. At tiny Mississippi Valley State, however, Coach Archie (Gunslinger) Cooley has taken this concept to its logical conclusion. His Delta Devils have dropped huddles altogether.
To say that this strategy has met with success is to put it mildly. The team's so-called offense of the 1990s has been scoring points at an amazing rate. Leading up to last Saturday's battle of unbeatens with Alcorn State, Mississippi Valley State had averaged 64 points and 550 yards per outing.
Alcorn, a power in the Southwestern Athletic Conference, finally managed to contain this offensive juggernaut, but not without a struggle. Mississippi Valley stormed back from a 28-7 deficit in the second half, but Alcorn emerged with a 42-28 victory.
''Call it what you want, it was an epic,'' said Alcorn Coach Marino Casem. ''People wanted a show, and they got a good one. No, a great one.''
To accomodate the demand for tickets, the game was switched from Mississippi Valley's 10,000-seat stadium in Itta Bena to Jackson, where nearly 64,000 attended. Earlier in the season, the promise of offensive fireworks drew 40,000 to watch the Delta Devils defeat Grambling in Indianapolis in the first Circle City Classic.
The decision to drop huddles occurred during a practice after the season's first game. Even though Mississippi Valley had just beaten Kentucky State 86-0, the coaches were concerned about how long it was taking to run plays. When Cooley couldn't come up with a good reason for keeping huddles, they were eliminated.